Churches ring in new year with meaning

First Posted: 12/31/2008

While some people chose to mark the coming of 2009 Wednesday night by hitting the bar scene or drinking toasts at parties as the clock neared midnight, others attended area churches for alternative observances.
A number of congregations, including those at Mount Airys Grace Moravian and Bannertown Baptist, held traditional watchnight services beginning at 11:30 p.m., designed to celebrate 2008 while praying for a happy new year. Other churches conducted special Wednesday night services in conjunction with the holiday, including some that were part of revivals.
Still others, such as Willow Hill Moravian in Ararat, Va., and Family Fellowship Chapel near White Plains, scheduled a full evening of New Years Eve activities including such attractions as games, music and pizza.
The event at Family Fellowship Chapel on McKinney Road, for example sponsored by the youth department of the church was expected to last until 1 a.m. today after kicking off at 8 p.m. Wednesday with a live band performance.
Its kind of a unifying thing, said Tim Beasley of Mount Airy, who added that he has attended the New Years service there for several years. Beasley believes it offers a way to celebrate with others who just want to have a good, meaningful time in a wholesome and safe environment.
Its a more positive approach than just going to a bar or sitting at home and maybe doing nothing, he said.
Beasley compared such New Years services to those held on Halloween by area churches. Both are supplying people with another option besides the activities of the outside world, which can be destructive or hazardous on those occasions due to some celebrating in the wrong ways.
This is a Christian alternative, said Leann Shelton, whose father Mike is the pastor of Family Fellowship Chapel.
People of all ages had gathered in the church sanctuary by 8 p.m. Wednesday as the sounds of One Accord, a Christian rock band, permeated the room. The upbeat musical program had the audience on its feet at times, and after the group took a break, those attending the celebration moved to a nearby gymnasium/fellowship hall to enjoy pizza, desserts and other refreshments.
But it was not all just about fun. Participants also were reminded of the more reverent aspects associated with the passage of another annual milestone and the need to approach a fresh new year in a praiseworthy manner.

Moravian Observance
The 11:30 p.m. watchnight service at Grace Moravian Church on North Main Street was designed to remind participants of why they enjoyed the blessings of the outgoing year and will receive those to come, said the Rev. Anthony Hayworth, pastor.
Its being thankful to God for the new year, Hayworth said.
In addition to hymns, Bible verses and reflections scheduled as part of the evening, Hayworth planned to deliver a sermon leading up to the new year being welcomed at midnight. The watchnight service also focuses on remembrance of the passing year, especially by those who might have lost loved ones during the period.
The pastor added that Wednesday nights gathering was to incorporate a Moravian tradition in which the church band interrupts whatever is happening in the service at the stroke of midnight by starting to play.
Hayworth said the hymn Now Thank We All Our God was a key part of the watchnight service, which includes the acknowledgment of God as an entity who from our mothers arms has blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
The first watchnight service can be traced to 1732, when Moravians launched the practice in Herrnhut, Saxony, Germany.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected], or at 719-1924.

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